Coke Shuns Short-Termism, Drops Quarterly Earnings Forecasts

16 December 2002

Only a global titan like Coca-Cola has the cojones– more importantly the muscle – to draw a line in the sand against the endemic short-termism of Wall Street and the rest of the world’s stockmarket bookmakers.

The move is all the more bold given the pressure currently being applied to major companies for greater transparency and disclosure.

The Atlanta-headquartered beverage behemoth revealed Friday it will cease feeding quarterly earnings forecasts into the maw of Wall Street and its counterparts, preferring instead to focus on – and be judged by – its long term strategy.

Coke took its first step in the direction of fiscal sanity back in April when it ceased issuing quarterly volume growth forecasts. It is now extending this reform to earnings estimates so as to focus on the expansion of its products and markets instead of the god of short-term targets.

“We believe we shouldn't be locked in and directed by short-term attitudes,” chairman/ceo Douglas Daft told analysts and investors at a meeting in New York. And in this belief Daft and his board have the backing of no less a figure than the Sage of Omaha himself, the legendary investor (and Coca-Cola- board member) Warren Buffet.

Indeed, some onlookers believe Buffett to be the driving force behind the move, sitting as he also does on the boards of Gillette and the Washington Post – neither of which provide earnings guidance. Another Coke director, media tycoon Barry Diller who runs USA Interactive, some time ago quit feeding analysts and investors a quarterly consignment of crystal balls, instead publishing its internal budgets.

Surprisingly, analysts reacted favorably to Coke’s move (the writing on the Wall Street, perhaps). It “fosters a better culture for Coke’s regional operators and frees them to make decisions in the longer-term best interest of the company,” opined Andrew Conway, a beverage analyst for Credit Suisse First Boston. But, he added, “they've got to deliver the results”.

Data sourced from: Multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff